Ahmed Zaoui And Legal Team Reject Peters’ Claims
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor.
Ahmed Zaoui and his lawyers have this evening rejected claims made by Winston Peters in Parliament that the Zaoui case has somehow attracted to New Zealand Iraqis formerly connected to Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime.
In Parliament today, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said: “… before the man (Amer Mahdi Saleh Khashaly) was even named, he had been to McLeod and Associates, Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyers, to seek refugee status, but they have dropped him like a hot scone because they could see he would damage their hopeless public relations case in respect of Ahmed Zaoui.”
But Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyer, Deborah Manning, said the claims are a cheap-shot and that lawyers acting for Amer Mahdi Saleh Khashaly have confirmed that their client had never heard of Ahmed Zaoui.
Additionally, Deborah Manning said this evening that she has never met Mr Khashaly nor had she heard of him prior to Mr Khashaly having been named in Parliament by Mr Peters.
“It is a serious concern to Mr Zaoui and his legal advisors that Winston Peters continues to take cheap shots at the case being run by Mr Zaoui, which involves for him and his family matters of life and death,” Deborah Manning said.
“There is actually no factual foundation for asserting a link between Mr Khashaly and Mr Zaoui’s case. I have spoken to Mr Khashaly’s lawyer today who has confirmed that there is no connection and that Mr Khashaly had not even heard of Mr Zaoui or his case before coming to New Zealand or before attempting to obtain entry."
Deborah Manning said Mr Khashaly did however make contact with McLeod and Associates but that she had no idea that Mr Khashaly had done so. Deborah Manning is a former employee of McLeod and Associates and is currently a consultant to the firm.
She said: “Mr Peters has wrongly claimed that Mr Khashaly came to New Zealand because of Mr Zaoui.
“There are no similarities between the Iraqi cases and Mr Zaoui’s. On one hand, and although I do not want to make any comment on the merits of their case, they are someway connected to the machinery of a repressive regime whereas Mr Zaoui is a victim of one,” Deborah Manning said.
In Parliament today Winston Peters asked Immigration Minister Paul Swain: “If that is the Minister’s conclusion, then how does he explain that before the man was even named, he had been to McLeod and Associates, Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyers, to seek refugee status, but they have dropped him like a hot scone because they could see he would damage their hopeless public relations case in respect of Ahmed Zaoui—which is why he went to the second lawyer—the one we saw on TV last night; and why is he insisting upon putting on a display like “Comical Ali”, the former information Minister of Iraq, and why does he insist on making that “Comical Ali” look like a Privy Council judge?”
Mr Swain answered: “As I understand it, that person has now gone to another lawyer. It is a free county; he can go to any lawyer that he likes to.”
Winston Peters continued: “Could the Minister inform his colleague from Hamilton that the sequence of events does not admit her allegation—namely, that Winston Peters is to blame for this man seeking refugee status—given that before he was even named in this Parliament he was already seeking refugee status through McLeod and Associates, the lawyers for Ahmed Zaoui?” Mr Swain answered: “I stand absolutely by my statement that naming the person and making it public adds to the weight of that case.”
Mr Peters was granted leave to table “evidence of Mr al-Khashali going to see McLeod and Associates”.